Are you browsing a real estate website and find a page that asks: “Fill out this form and we will get you pre-approved with a top local lender.” Sounds easy, you wont even have to go anywhere else to complete a real estate transaction.
I have seen this option on multiple real estate websites, even on the most respected agent sites. Should you fill out a loan application on a real estate website? My opinion, however, is NO! Real estate agents offer a plethora of information on their sites. You can find community and neighborhood information, search for property, even advice for buying and selling property. Sure, the only combination missing for a complete transaction is the Loan Process. It’s convenient to have a preapproval form available, making that website a one-stop place to real estate shop…in the convenience of your very own living room.
With today’s sensitive information being so freely dispersed, and identity theft on the rise, why would any agent want this responsibility? Use caution with individuals, or online venues, in which you are volunteering your personal information. A real estate agent should be able to provide you with a name and phone number (along with recommendations) of a few Loan Agents so that you can make a selection, a type of concierge page (see below an example of my own concierge page). Of course, basic information is necessary for an agent to obtain such as your annual income and a debt to income estimate. This will assist the agent in determining where to begin as a price range and the agent will usually be able to alert you to potential loan qualifying issues.
Personally, I will not even give my personal information to an individual who calls me and says “You’ve filled out a form and now I’d like to get you preapproved for a home loan, can I have your social security number?” No way! I’d like the main phone number to the establishment in which that agent represents. Then I’ll do an Internet search on that particular individuals name and/or institution to see if there is any obvious information that will assist me in making a decision. I will be the person to initiate the call, before offering up my personal information.
Consumers must be sure they are speaking to who they believe is on the other end of the line…phone or Internet. Do not give your personal information out to anyone that does not need it. A real estate agent does NOT need your social security number. If they require preapproval to show you property, fine, they should also be able to take you over to a reputable financial institution to do this. Better yet, call your own banking institution and get your own preapproval prior to contacting an agent. Your own financial institution can provide you with approved terms and a good faith estimate of fees and costs. You can always shop around later for a better rate or terms, but at least you know your information is secure and you are better informed as a buyer to shop for a home.